Nqobile Ndema Ngwenya 

I was privileged to be born with Cerebral Palsy. Yeah, you heard that right, privileged! It’s the story of how a young man, born with such a challenging barrier in life, rose to fight through the challenge relying on God’s word and the motto ‘GOD IS ABLE!’ My determination to make something out of my life saw me going against all odds to become a computer expert after going to Beaumont College in the UK to be trained in computers. I made history by becoming the first African student to be enrolled at a British specialized vocational training college for students with Cerebral Palsy. The Bible says in Hebrews 11 verse 6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. I believe I have always diligently sought God’s face.

We have often heard that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I would like to start by saying, without my determination, persistence, positive attitude towards life and, above all, my faith in God, I would have never become the computer expert I am today. Living with a disability, I faced endless hurdles and attitudinal barriers which persons with disabilities face in the society. 

Before I left school in 1992, God gave me a dream to pursue Information Technology (IT) studies in the United Kingdom (UK). With the assistance from my former school in Bulawayo, I found a college in the UK where I could study. The tuition fee per year was about 25000 pounds. To the human mind it was impossible and out of reach, but I saw through the eyes of faith. As the Bible says, “… the just shall live by faith”. I started calling things into being by faith. My teachers and the headmistress convinced me to forget about my dream because they thought that I was not capable of pursuing such studies. The reason was that they judged me based on my learning difficulties, and I had not attained ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels which is the requirement by international standards, and no one would give me that kind of money. I responded by pondering on 1 John 5 verse 4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” I refused to be conformed to the worldly perception of a disabled person because I am a child of God, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My parents named me ‘Nqobile’ and I believe that I was born to conquer the challenges that I face. 

In 1993, I was chosen to be one of six pupils from King George VI Memorial School in Bulawayo to be part of the Calvert Trust Tour to England, Scotland and Denver Exmoor, for three weeks. We participated in a range of sporting activities designed for people with disabilities. When we visited Bulawayo’s twin city Aberdeen, God opened an opportunity for me to have a chat with the twinning officer, and I shared my vision of pursuing Information Technology at Beaumont College. She expressed her interest to try to assist me. I have learnt that when God puts a vision in a person, He provides the right people to help achieve it. 

Three months after I got back home, I started seeking for financial assistance to be enrolled at the college. After three years of efforts to be enrolled, God used Miss Alison Cameron to negotiate terms with the college authorities and they agreed. They offered me a short course for three months and tuition fees came down from 25000 pounds to 4,200 pounds just for me. It did not come down because I was clever or because I am smart. It was because I had faith and believed God would make it possible. Before I took to the streets of Bulawayo, I had written to over 200 companies locally and internationally seeking funding. Among the prominent personalities who responded was the wife of the former British Prime Minister John Major’s wife, Dame Norma Christina Elizabeth Major, who wrote back and wished me success in my endeavours although she was unable to assist. Disappointments are a part of life especially when you have to write  over 200 letters, only to receive regrets. I continued to maintain a positive attitude.

 I approached about eight people in Bulawayo who I requested to be in the funding raising committee. The local newspaper, the Chronicle had a heading titled, ‘Nqobile a Computer Wizard, Unfit for Normal School’. I spent about five months walking to different companies and businesses in the city of Bulawayo seeking sponsorship. I used to move around with a typed letter explaining my mission as my speech is difficult to understand. In every company I went to, I made it clear that I was not seeking hand for outs, but I was looking for people who would help me to achieve the vision that God had given me. As the Bible says, “… faith without works is dead” James 2;17. Traditional society prefers to respond to persons with disabilities with charity, rather than empowering them to be independent so that they can make contributions to the country’s economy like other citizens and make their own livelihood. My motto ‘God is able’ kept me going despite all adversity. The weekly publicity in the newspaper boosted my fund-raising activities, and companies around Bulawayo donated large sums of money. The total amount which we had raised in 1995 was 75000 ZWD, which was equivalent to 1000 British pounds at the time.

 In July the same year, I received a fax, through my computer tutor Belinda Clark, from Beaumont College informing me that I had been awarded a full scholarship by Barclays Bank of England and it was worth 4,200 British pounds. I shouted for joy, leapt into the arms of Belinda my computer tutor with joy. It was like I was dreaming. God had come through for me and proved that He is more than able.  On the 8th of January 1996 I was enrolled at Beaumont College and made history by becoming Africa’s first Christian student to be enrolled at the college. I made other headlines in the local newspapers of Lancaster. A lot has happened in between. The long and short of it is that I have managed to use my computer knowledge to do tasks that earn me a living.

At Beaumont College in 1996 with my tutor

It has been nine years since I took another giant step of faith and moved out of my parents’ home to stay alone so that I can be independent as a grown adult, which in the disability movement is referred to as ‘Independent Living’. Independent Living is a philosophy and a movement of people with disabilities who work towards self-determination, equal opportunities and self-respect. I thank God for giving me the privilege to be born with Cerebral Palsy. Why? So that His glory may be revealed in my life. My favourite pastor David Ring, who also has Cerebral Palsy, always says, “God never says Oops!” That is the God who has been there for me always.

Nqobile Ndema Ngwenya is the first-born son to educators, the late Mthandazo Ndema Ngwenya, a well-known Ndebele author and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturer. My mother, Elizabeth Ngwenya, is a retired Headmistress. I have three sisters who are, Ntombikayise, Nhlalwenhle and  Mihlayifani.